March 29, 2024: Why We Keep Going


Header reads: Texas A-F-T. The Hotline.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Why we keep going 

As has become the norm, much of the news we have for you this week is bleak. In times like these, as districts announce cuts and layoffs and as the attacks on education from the state government continue, many teachers and school staff members are finding it hard to keep going, to keep doing our important work for our students.


So we’d like to share something Houston Federation of Teachers Vice President Daniel Santos shared this week. On X/Twitter, Santos posted a letter he received from a parent of one of his students in 2019. You can read it in full above or here. Why does this decorated social studies teacher in Houston ISD keep doing his all to inspire his students with accessible lessons and diverse reading lists — despite all the obstacles and threats? Because of the potential impact on his students’ lives and love of learning. As the parent who wrote the letter states:  

“One day after school, my son said, ‘We are reading a book called Chains. It’s really cool. Do you want to hear about it?’ And he began to tell me about the story.

As he began to share, I saw a light in his eyes — a light I hadn’t seen in so very long. It was so wonderful to see! We spent every day after school — car off, radio off, with me waiting excitedly to hear the next installment in the saga. Just the two of us, discussing the book week after week.”

This is our work. This is why we keep fighting to #ThriveTogether. May this story remind you of your Why.

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • The brand-new chair of the State Board of Education made a surprise announcement about the Permanent School Fund. Here’s what it means.

  • Whatever happened to those alleged “electioneering” lawsuits filed by indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton against several Texas school districts?

  • Do the words “Central Appraisal Districts” mean anything to you? You’re voting on them May 4.

  • Remember curriculum bill HB 1605 from the Legislature? TEA has finally released guidance for educators.

— State Board of Education

SBOE Chair Divests $8.5 Million in Public School Funding. What Comes Next? 

Hand grabbing stack of money out of jenga game made out of money.

Illustration by Sierra Wiggers

Earlier this week, Texas AFT released a statement condemning Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) Chairman Aaron Kinsey’s unilateral decision to divest $8.5 billion in Permanent School Fund assets from wealth manager BlackRock, ostensibly in response to 2021’s Senate Bill 13 

On March 19, Kinsey issued a formal statement to BlackRock, one of several firms who manage our tax dollars contained in the Permanent School Fund, announcing that the SBOE would be withdrawing billions of dollars in assets. Kinsey’s cited reason for this abrupt divestment is that BlackRock’s “dominant and persistent leadership in the [environmental, social, governance] ESG movement” is a violation of state law. Kinsey further declared that ESG policies “immeasurably damage our oil & gas economy” that generate revenues for the PSF fund.  

The law Kinsey refers to is Texas Government Code 809, amended by SB 13 (2021), which prohibits the state from investing with companies that “boycott energy companies.” Though the SBOE’s Committee on the Permanent School Fund did vote to divest from companies in violation of Ch. 809 nearly a year ago in April 2023, there was no specific directive to remove funds from this group nor does the law require such divestment. So, what spurred this very public announcement all these months later?  

The announcement makes perfect sense when you consider the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) held its 2024 policy summit in Austin on March 20 … 

— State Board of Education

Update: American Indian/Native Studies Course Still in SBOE Limbo 

Sign the petition from the Ethnic Studies Network of Texas in support of the American Indian/Native Studies Course.

Illustration by Deante’ Moore

As of this writing, the agenda for the April meeting of the State Board of Education has yet to be posted, and so we anxiously await whether the proposed American Indian/Native Studies course will finally be on the agenda for first reading. 
The course was excluded from the January SBOE agenda with little explanation. Several advocates attended the meeting to testify eloquently on the value of and need for the course, but discussion in the room was limited due to open-meetings regulations. 

With the omission of the course from the April agenda, advocates are rightly concerned that the review process could be delayed another year or more. If the pattern of delay continues, the process could be put on hold indefinitely. 

— Elections

Public Education on the Ballot: New Elected Positions to be Filled in May 4 Local Elections Will Decide Who Controls Local Property Tax Revenue

Texas voters will cast their ballots for three new elected positions in the local elections to be held on May 4. This local election date is separate from the May 28 uniform election date on which runoff elections will be held; voters in some places can vote in two consequential elections in May. 


Central Appraisal Districts (CADs) in Texas are responsible for determining the fair market value of all taxable property within their county. They use this information to create a property tax roll that includes ownership details, values, and applicable exemptions. This tax roll is then used by cities, counties, school districts, community colleges, and other taxing units to calculate property tax bills based on tax rates set by those taxing entities.  


Prior to a change in the law made during the 88th legislative session, which was incorporated into a constitutional amendment approved by voters in the November election (Proposition 4, the omnibus property tax relief measure), all positions on CADs’ boards of directors were appointed by the local taxing entities mentioned above. 


Under the new law, three of the eight members of the CAD board of directors will be elected and the local tax assessor-collector will serve as an ex-oficio director. This change only affects CADs in counties with a population of 75,000 or more. 

— Texas Legislature

What Happened to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s “Electioneering” Lawsuits Against 7 School Districts? 

In the weeks leading up to the March 5 primary elections, Attorney General Ken Paxton took the unusual step of filing lawsuits against seven school districts (Denton, Aledo, Denison, Castleberry, Hutto, Huffman, and Frisco ISDs) accusing them of unlawful “electioneering.” Under state law, school districts and other governmental entities are prohibited from using public resources to advocate for or against a specific candidate, party, or measure.  


These lawsuits are widely considered to be an aggressive tactic motivated by the desire to suppress the voice of the public education community in the March primary elections out of fear that there could be repercussions for the state’s failure to adequately fund public education in the 88th legislative session.  

As of today, three school districts have taken steps toward resolving their lawsuits. But what about the others? 

— Texas Education Agency

Recommended Viewing: TEA Releases HB 1605 Webinar on Limits to Teacher Duties, Responsibilities 

Earlier this month, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) held a long-awaited webinar in their House Bill (HB) 1605 series, Planning and Non-Instructional Duties of Teachers, that provides an overview of the new statutory protections of planning time for classroom teachers and guidance on the supplemental duty agreement with a teacher scheduled to be implemented in the 2024-2025 academic year. 

Regular Hotline readers will be familiar with our extensive coverage of this bill and subsequent rulemaking by the State Board of Education (SBOE) for the review and adoption of instructional materials for Texas classrooms. However, HB 1605 was an expansive bill and in addition to upending the SBOE process, there were actually a few provisions of the bill that should be good for teachers, specifically changes to Texas Education Code §11.164 and §21.4045, related to teacher planning time and the non-instructional duties of teachers:  

  • The changes to TEC §11.164 are intended to limit extra or duplicative paperwork for teachers. In essence, teachers may not be required to produce unit or weekly lesson plans if the district has adopted instructional materials that contain these plans. 
  • Amendments to §21.4045 protect planning time and insert a requirement for a supplemental agreement in certain circumstances. Teachers cannot be required to use their bi-weekly planning time to create or select initial instructional materials in foundation area subjects. Districts must provide additional time during the school day or enter into a supplemental duty agreement with the teacher. 

The recorded webinar provides helpful examples of scenarios where this does or does not apply. 

— Event

Event graphic.

AFT Book Club: A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat 

Sunday, April 14 

5 p.m. CT 

Join us for our April AFT Book Club session featuring AFT President Randi Weingarten and renowned author Edwidge Danticat, discussing Danticat’s memoir Brother, I’m Dying. Engage with Weingarten and Danticat as they explore themes that delve into the complexities of family, identity, immigration, and political turmoil, framed within a deeply personal narrative. Brother, I’m Dying is not only a tribute to Danticat’s family and heritage but also a profound exploration of the themes that touch on universal human experiences. Through her intimate and evocative storytelling, Danticat offers insights into the intricacies of life, loss and the enduring power of familial bonds.

Educators can receive one hour of professional development recertification credit for participating in this webinar if they complete all the poll questions, survey, and actively watch the webinar. 

Enter your DonorsChoose project in our DonorsChoose Funding Sweepstakes before April 11 for a chance to have it fully funded! 

Longtime corporate supporter, Horace Mann, is drawing winners and funding up to $1,000 in DonorsChoose projects every Thursday through April 11. 

Don’t miss out – enter your DonorsChoose project today! 

DonorsChoose is not an affiliate of Horace Mann. 

No purchase necessary to enter or win. Must be at least 18 years of age to enter. Not valid in Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Washington and West Virginia and where otherwise prohibited by law. Visit for Official Rules.  

Horace Mann Service Corporation and certain of its affiliates (Horace Mann) enter into agreements with educational associations where Horace Mann pays the association to familiarize association members with the Horace Mann brand, products or services. Contact for more information. 

EMX-00166 (Feb. 24) 

Recommended Reading

Texas education news from around the state that’s worth your time

📖  Many Houston charter schools are violating state transparency laws. Here’s why it’s an issue. Many Houston-area charter schools are violating state transparency laws designed to make school governance and financial decisions open to the public, a pattern that has drawn minimal scrutiny from state officials. (Houston Landing, March 25)  

 📖  Right-Wing Funded Civitas Institute Is Almost Up and Running at UT-Austin. Monday was Justin Dyer’s first day as head of the University of Texas’ School of Civic Leadership, a newly created college tied to the right-wing funded Civitas Institute that has drawn skepticism and criticism from some corners of the university. (Austin Chronicle, March 27)  

 📖  Northside ISD defends selective raises, board votes to deny union grievance. Three generations of Pearl West’s family attended Esparza Elementary School in the Northside Independent School District, where she has spent the last seven years as a manager in the Child Nutrition Department. Two weeks ago, she resigned from her position. The resignation comes after more than a year of fighting, alongside the Northside American Federation of Teachers union, for raises given only to select employees as part of a raise proposal passed last January. (San Antonio Report, March 27)